Most people think that they’re adequately protected if they slather sunscreen on their faces and bodies before heading outside. Unfortunately, some unlucky ones discover hours later that they missed key areas — and now they have a lobster-red sunburn there to prove it.
Those of us who can relate have likely learned a lesson or two about the importance of applying sunscreen thoroughly. All of the negative ways the sun can damage skin are well-documented and we know that using SPF regularly is key to staying protected. The issues arise when we think we’re being good and applying sunscreen over our entire bodies, but wind up missing some key spots. To ensure that our full bodies are adequately protected, we asked the experts about the most common areas people forget to apply sunscreen.
Almost everyone remembers to apply sunscreen to their faces, but they can leave out key facial features, namely the lips. Dr. Dendy Engelman, dermatologic surgeon at Manhattan Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, states that lips are one of the most commonly forgotten areas. Unfortunately, the skin on lips is one of the thinnest on our entire bodies, which means burns are likely. To prevent burns, apply sunscreen or a lip product with SPF before going out.
Back of the Neck
Even those with long hair should ensure that their necks are protected. Dr. Ava Shamban, Beverly Hills dermatologist and founder of SKINxFIVE, points out that this is an often ignored spot during sunscreen application.
Ears may be small, but they are not to be overlooked because they can burn. Dr. Karyn Grossman, celebrity dermatologist and creator of KARYNG, states that the ears are frequently left unprotected like the backs of necks. It is key that sunscreen application extends beyond the face and toward the ears, however.
Engelman states, “Get in the habit of applying sunscreen on the face daily. If it becomes part of your routine, you will be more likely to not forget on days with more sun exposure. You can’t apply too much sunscreen, so make sure any skin that is exposed is covered.” She adds, “Apply it in the mirror before leaving for your day. That way you can notice places you forgot to apply it.” It also gives the product time to absorb before sun exposure.
Contrary to what some may think, hair doesn’t fully protect the scalp from the sun. Not even those who are blessed with thick, long manes can skip the sun protection. Engelman explains, “Even with hair, your scalp is at risk of burning and later peeling. Apply sunscreen to your scalp at least 30 minutes before sun exposure or cover up with a hat. Spray or powder sunblocks are great for the scalp.” Try Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($25.65). It’s a nongreasy dry oil that can be applied to hair and bodies.
Razor burn seems like a walk in the park compared to burned armpits, where every movement results in discomfort. To prevent this from happening, apply a thick layer of sunscreen to underarms. Wait a few seconds before putting arms down so the product has a chance to absorb.
It may not burn like the scalp, but protecting hair from the sun is just as essential. It’s especially important for those with dyed or chemically treated hair. “The best way to protect hair is to wear a hat,” Grossman states. “Look for SPF hairsprays that you can spritz in while out in the sun. Spray liberally, then pull your hair up into a pony or bun.” Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ For Face/Body ($40) comes in an easy-to-apply spray bottle that can be used from tresses to toes.
And reapplying sunscreen on hair is just as important as reapplying it on skin. Grossman suggests following the same skin sunscreen rules and reapply hair SPF every one to two hours and after swimming.
Even a pair of boyshort bikini bottoms or a longline retro swimsuit won’t completely protect your butt. Swimsuits shift, which can leave cheeks exposed to the sun’s damaging rays. Apply sunscreen to your derrière at the same time as your back so there’s less chance of skipping the area.
We apply sunscreen with our hands yet our experts revealed that hands are one of the most commonly forgotten areas to apply SPF. Ensure adequate protection by covering all sides of hands with a thick layer of sunscreen. And remember to reapply it after washing hands. Another easy hack is to swap regular hand lotion for a formula with skin-protecting ingredients.
Chest and Décolletage
The chest area is another spot all three experts cited as a sadly neglected zone. It’s essential that the entire chest area is protected with a liberal coating of sunscreen. This includes décolletages, shoulders, breasts and necks. Be sure to cover areas hidden by swimsuit straps because straps shift. It helps to apply sunscreen before putting on a swimsuit to ensure everything is fully covered.
Sandal season calls for sun protection on feet. That includes the tops, sides and even the bottoms. Heels and the pads of feet can sometimes get burned when we’re lounging on our stomachs on a beach towel.